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What is preeclampsia? Beyoncé opens up about pregnancy complication

“My health and my babies’ health were in danger," the singer said, recalling her difficult pregnancy with twins.
/ Source: TODAY

More than a year after giving birth to twins, Beyoncé is revealing she endured a pregnancy complication that forced doctors to perform an emergency C-section.

The boy and girl were born in June 2017 after the singer had been confined to her bed for weeks because of health concerns, she told Vogue in a new interview. The ordeal left her in "survival mode.”

Beyonce shares rare photo of the twins
Beyonce shares a rare photo of her

“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month,” Beyoncé told the magazine.

“My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU.”

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What is preeclampsia?

Toxemia most likely refers to preeclampsia, a pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorder that affects 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies. It’s a serious condition that typically starts after the 20th week of pregnancy and is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The rate of preeclampsia in the U.S. has increased 25 percent in the last two decades, the group noted.

What causes preeclampsia?

It was once believed to be caused by a toxin in the blood — which doctors now know is not the case — and therefore called “toxemia,” an outdated term, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development explained.

The cause of preeclampsia is still unknown, but the risk goes up for women who are pregnant with multiples, like Beyoncé was; have a family history of preeclampsia; are obese; are pregnant over 40; had chronic high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy; are pregnant for the first time and other factors.

"It's called a disease of theories because there are so many theories as to what the ultimate cause is,” Eleni Tsigas, executive director of the Preeclampsia Foundation, told TODAY when a version of the condition was featured on an episode of "Downton Abbey.”

“We don't know and that's held us up from having any kind of intervention. We treat the symptoms but I think it's like putting a Band-Aid on an arterial bleed. You're not getting at the root cause."

What are the effects on mother and child?

High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher) during pregnancy affects both the expectant mother and her baby: It can put extra stress on the woman’s heart and kidneys, and it can reduce the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.

What are the symptoms?

Preeclampsia symptoms include:

  • swelling of the face or hands
  • a severe headache
  • changes in eyesight
  • pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder
  • nausea and vomiting in the second half of pregnancy
  • sudden weight gain and difficulty breathing

Tests may reveal an abnormal amount of protein in the urine and a low number of platelets in the blood. The expectant mom may have abnormal kidney or liver function.

How is preeclampsia treated?

It depends on the severity of the symptoms and how far along the pregnancy is. The mother and fetus are monitored closely to watch for signs of trouble.

When a woman has severe preeclampsia and is at 34 weeks of pregnancy or later, ACOG recommends delivery as soon as medically possible.

If the preeclampsia is mild and it’s possible to wait to deliver, the expectant mother may go on bed rest, like Beyoncé did, to try to lower blood pressure and increase the blood flow to the placenta, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development noted.

In more severe cases, she may be hospitalized and given intravenous medication to control blood pressure.

Preeclampsia symptoms usually go away within six weeks of delivery.